There are all sorts of challenges to raising children, and plenty of writers have elaborated on the joys and pains of every phase from infancy to college. And I’m not one of those moms who is bereft when her babies achieve new developmental milestones – I remember other mothers sobbing as they dropped their darlings off on the first day of kindergarten, while I was the one barely restraining my urge to whoop and holler, “Yahoo, free day care!” I love it when they grow, and become more independent, and in general I find them much more interesting the older they get (although they also can talk back more, and tell you off in much more colorful terms, but it’s still fascinating, and I’m expanding my vocabulary – sh**t-ton is a wonderfully apt adjective, as in, “I have a sh**t-ton of homework”).
That said, my youngest son Ben has always been the adventurous, fearless one who caused me innumerable gasps and heart-clutching moments, starting to walk at 11 months and immediately progressing to climbing on anything he could find and running in front of moving cars. I finally caved in and bought a leash – or, “toddler adventure harness” or whatever euphemism the manufacturers use these days. I got some dirty looks, but any mom of an active toddler can relate to the relief I felt, being able to keep him safe without squelching his adventurous, independent spirit. And now he’s ready to explore a new phase of independence: he has his driver’s license, and an old car he inherited from my ex-husband (his dad). I mean, the State of California has determined that he’s a safe enough driver to get a license, and he’s a responsible, intelligent kid, but it’s still really weird. I’ve spent 19 years driving him and his older brother to school and to all sorts of activities, doctor appointments, practices, rehearsals, playdates, and errands. And suddenly I’m no longer organizing my schedule around schlepping kids! It’s actually pretty darn cool, but it’s also the end of an era, and I started to get tearily sentimental – until Ben reassured me, “Don’t worry Mom, I’ll still make you drive me occasionally. After all, gas is expensive and you can save me some money!”